I’ve always been skeptical of authority
Growing up inside a Parochial school system caused me to question my beliefs to the point of existential and philosophical angst. I had existed in an echo chamber for so long… how could I be sure that my worldview was right?
I remember watching Bill Maher’s Religulous in the basement of a friends house as a teenager feeling like I just got unplugged from the Matrix. Now Maher just seems like a smug asshole.
I’m always considering different viewpoints and changing opinions. Absorbing a couple YouTube videos will have me spilling out memorized facts like “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams!”. Most of this fades with time; it’s only the really well-founded arguments that tend to stick with me.
Merriam-Webster defines brainwashing as “a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas.”
As I graduated high school and entered the state university system, I replaced one set of institutional beliefs for another. Just like I was skeptical of an absolute and authoritative Catholic Church, I began to grow the same sense of skepticism for public universities.
I began to get the impression that cultural relativism should touted as a badge of honor. Blind acceptance and encouragement was the newfound face of love. My own personal beliefs began to drift toward the progressive vision of progress.”
As a college freshman, I was exposed to a myriad of new political, religious, and social morsels from the hands of my professors and progressive peers and digested them assuming it was simply part of being an educated person. While I couldn’t quite verbalize it at the time, I sensed something was off as early as my freshmen seminar class. Double speak became commonplace. John Oliver was my new Sunday service, and just enough to feed me a narrative that made me sound smart. The Right was seen as racist bigots fueled by corporate greed, nothing more than intellectual idiocy. Political discussion was similar to an echo chamber, where we all rattled off the same talking points and agreed with each other emphatically or ridiculed people who watch Fox News.
At one time, our country valued free speech and free press regardless of disagreement. This is actually one of the tenets of classical liberalism. Yet this freedom began to fall short when I started working for the on-campus news organization. Editorial decisions I made were considered offensive to some, and condemned by the administration to the point that my university president sat me down and explained that her office held the purse strings, and I had better play along. Man on the street videos that a majority considered hilarious were overpowered by an offended minority that demanded they be shut down. My dream of experiencing a public education – something I had envisioned as an intercultural exchange of ideas and opinions – was turning into an Orwellian nightmare. Consequentially, I created The Leader as a means to escape censorship. After all, I didn’t go to school to learn Public Relations. I wanted to tell real stories.
Bernie Sanders had a plan. And I was happy to see someone speaking from the heart, talking about clear goals and policy directives. It all sounded wonderful. Free college? Bern baby Bern! Taxing the Wall Street banksters that created the economic depression of 2008? Sounds fair.
“I was watching and experiencing the stifling effect our political environment had on free speech and free assembly across the country.”
As my own personal beliefs and understanding of the world became incompatible with this new-spun collegiate narrative, I began to see inconsistencies within progressive ideology that had coalesced into a singular voice. The germinating fear bubbling from the cauldron of television news coverage was enough for me.
The more I dug for facts, the more I was convinced that I was witnessing a dangerous cultural shift. The moral compass that was once supplied by the church was now supplanted by blindly supporting the Democratic Party. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. An overwhelming majority assuming righteousness and moral superiority seemed awfully similary to the same zealotry I experienced in Catholic school.
TL;DR I learned that I am not an ideologue – not with an allegiance to one authoritarian figure – but an allegiance to the principles I believe will make the world a better place.